Spotlight: A Q&A with Erie County Department of Mental Health

Apr 30, 2019

We need to be willing to ask them how they are, how they have been feeling and be willing to listen.

The Erie County Department of Mental Health (ECDMH) provides over $62 million in funding from a variety of federal, state, and county sources for the provisions of services on a contract basis to 43 community  based agencies, other County departments, or directly by the Department's Forensic Mental Health Division. In addition, the Department of Mental Health is the direct service provider in the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility.

 Erie County Forensic Mental Health (ECFMH) service provides direct services to the criminal justice system. In 2018, over 4,500 referrals received a mental health assessment by the ECFMH unit in the Erie County Correctional Facility (ECCF) and Erie County Holding Center (ECHC). Services include the psychiatric evaluation of individuals detained for trial or prior to sentencing, and the care and follow-up treatment of mentally ill individuals under the jurisdiction of the Courts, Erie County Department of Probation, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Division of Jail Management: ECCF and ECHC.

In addition, the ECDMH Children’s Division/ Single Point of Access (C-SPOA) serves to identify, screen, and assign to evidence based or other intensive services to eligible high need/high risk children and youth with a serious emotional disturbance (SED) and/or behavioral disorder, and/or their family members with multi-system involvment who are experiencing a level of impaired functioning that places a child/youth at-risk of out of home care. While the ECDMH Single Point of Access (A-SPOA), facilitates community collaboration for and provides referrals to critical care coordination and housing services for high risk individuals with mental health and/or co-occurring substance use disorders.

We recently spoke with Michael Ranney, CRC-R, LMHC Commissioner of Mental Health for Erie County, about mental health in our community. 

Q: What are the most urgent mental health issues in Erie County?

  • Increasing services for people with co-occurring conditions of mental illness, addiction, intellectual or developmental disability. Additionally, provider workforce retention of clinical staff and physicians is always a concern.
  • More affordable housing in the community is necessary so people are able to transition out of the service system. This would then allow high need individuals access to the housing services.
  • Assisting those with mental health conditions who are involved in the criminal justice system is another priority. We continue to focus on diversion efforts, jail mental health programming, and community reintegration by way of reentry services.
  • Increasing employment opportunities for people with mental illness is needed.

Q: What are some ways that the citizens of Erie County can help their family and friends that may experience mental health challenges?

We need to be willing to ask them how they are, how they have been feeling and be willing to listen. If they express concern that they have been feeling down or anxious to the point they have not been able to function we need to assist them in getting help as they likely are struggling with a mental health issue.

Q: Why is it important to address the stigma of mental illness in our community?

Stigma can create barriers and prevents people from getting help. We need to pledge and join together to end stigma that surrounds mental illness. As a community need to understand that mental illness is a health condition. We need to seek help if we don’t feel well and see a doctor if we experience physical pain. We also need to be able and willing to get help if we are having emotional difficulties and experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.